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All That is Within

Psalm 103:1-8, Luke 13:10-17 and Excerpts from Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

August 21st, 2022 10:30 a.m.


By Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche

Thank you again for being here, however you are connecting. It is a significant weekend in the life of our church! I am just filled up with gratitude and feel so grateful to be here in this way today. I invite you now to take a few deep breaths and to let yourself arrive and to hear whatever it is you need to hear from Spirit today. And as you are moved I invite you to join me in the “preacher's prayer” from the Psalms.

Gracious God, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Back to my yard, for those who were here last week. There is a new and surprisingly large patch of mushrooms in part of our front yard, different shapes and sizes with tops too big to stand much longer. And they have spread out like they own the place. But the wild thing is that there was really nothing there for a long time, but some grass and the usual rocks and it is as if seemingly suddenly now it is a full on mushroom festival!

Clearly as Robin Wall Kimmerer writes, there’s “a world of being, full of unseen energies that animate everything,” She writes about the term, “Puhpowee,” which translates as “the force which causes mushrooms to push up from the earth overnight.”

“unseen energies that animate everything…”

And I did find myself wondering, as I stood there in awe, I thought, is there anything we can learn from this? From this incredible world full of unseen energies? That animate everything? Whether or not they feel like it?

For those who missed what I shared last Sunday, we are in our second week of exploring what we can learn from non-human organisms and we are sticking with Braiding Sweetgrass for the month of August, but do you know what, I realize that I said we would be learning from plants, and that is true for the other weeks, but for today, well if you don’t already know, mushrooms aren’t really plants! They are fungi. And they are in a glorious and fascinating and weird and wonderful kingdom of their own, one that is entirely different from plants and animals. Kingdom Fungi, includes more than 144,000 known species like mold, yeasts, and rusts. Isn’t that wild?

So we were laughing earlier, when I was telling my husband what I was exploring today, he was like, “Baby if you are going to talk about mushrooms…” So I looked into this: something like up to 5 million Americans partook of psilocybin mushrooms last year. And because it is legal for adults in parts of the Denver Metro Area, some people have asked me about it. So I did a little digging in, just to provide you with this long asterisk. I am not a medical expert, but it seems like in the therapeutic context, some people do experience benefits for things like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder. So, this is not to say I personally believe partaking in all circumstances is good for us! But I do think there is something perhaps to learn, but we aren’t going that direction today. Today we are learning from mushrooms as they show up in the world.

Because mushrooms are true connectors and experienced communicators. They are garbage collectors and genius recyclers of what isn’t wanted.

In the Scientific American, Jennifer Frazer wrote, “No tree is an island, and no place is this truer than the forest. Hidden beneath the soil of the forest understory is a labyrinth of fungal connections between tree roots that scientists call the mycorrhizal network. Others have called it the wood-wide web.”

Certain varieties of mushrooms are called “Tree-Helpers” because they support the process of absorbing water and minerals for the tree and in return the tree gives the mushrooms the nutrients they need. And scientists have learned that trees literally exchange messages through mushrooms living in the root system in a mutualistic relationship.

Mushrooms and other fungi thrive from a life of interdependence, of sharing and supporting others, even outside of their species. They show up after fires and they show up in the trunks of dead trees and they even take what is toxic and turn it into food.

We have some smart, well-read people and even some scientists among us, so you probably already know that generally speaking, most plants make their food using the process of photosynthesis, which is of course using the sun. And we animals eat, then internally digest our food. But fungi don’t use either of these processes, rather their mycelium grows into or around their food source and they secrete enzymes that digest the food externally. Maybe this is some wisdom for us?

They go to the source of what they need and work out a relationship that works for everyone; they communicate openly about what is needed for everyone in the equation to thrive.

All of these interactions really are small in the scale of the cosmos, and I bet most of them would need instruments for us to even perceive what is happening. But I love knowing all that happens below the surface. Connecting, communicating, sharing, mutuality and interdependence and healing. Which gets me to the Gospel. And I bet you were wondering when and how I would get there from mushrooms? I think that is one definition of healing, is what we do with the toxins in our life, the ones given to us and the ones we encounter by circumstance to transform those into nutrients.

That’s what this story in the Gospel of Luke is about-healing, at least in part, because it features a woman who in this text is given no name who has been hurting for eighteen years, bent over and unstable, unable to stand up. And it isn’t the best day, the proper day for Jesus to be a part of her healing, but he does it anyway. And as you heard, he is chastised by an angry leader who was telling him this wasn’t the right way to do it and Jesus reminds them that the animals on site are getting tended to so why not her? There seems to be an urgency in Jesus that the others don’t feel and so it gets me to thinking that perhaps he is trying to share the thing that we also heard from the mushrooms: even though in this world we have built where healthcare and healing aren’t available to all, with Jesus and the mushrooms that’s not true, if you are in need of attention, the love is right there, the healing is right there, what is needed is right there, the tiniest connection matters for the whole. What if part of what we are meant to take away from this story is how these tiny interactions in the scale of the cosmos really are significant and bigger than we can perceive?

It might be easy to chastise those who Jesus labels as hypocrites that day. I guess we humans like scapegoats and villains and we also would like to imagine that in that situation we would definitely be on the side of compassion, but I am not so sure. I have seen firsthand and maybe you have too what can happen with pressure from a crowd. But still he does the right thing and I wonder if his actions here point us to the power, to the significance of healing just one person, one part, one place, what if this actually matters to the whole thing?

In her book, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds, adrienne maree brown offers incredible insights on how healing and deep systems change begins with shaping the smallest patterns of our daily lives. She writes about mushrooms and how they show, “resilience in these structures, which we think of as weeds and fungi, the incomprehensible scale, the clarity of identity...” She says, ”mushrooms can take substances we think of as toxic, and process them as food”

What if this story invites us to consider the power we have to shape what we want with our little choices, the daily patterns of our life regardless of what the crowd says? What if we could see ourselves like mushrooms, as part of a labyrinth of compassionate connections between the roots of other beings? What if we tended to even what seem like insignificant connections?

And here’s another lesson, mushrooms are really hard to cultivate and how you grow them is allowing for certain kinds of conditions.

What if tending to the tiniest connections, allowing for certain conditions, can grow and shift and heal something in a bigger way, beyond what we can see on the surface? What if doing it when we can right now, being a part of healing hurts, matters more than doing it perfectly or how the crowd tells us from a distance what is the right way?

And knowing there are always things going on below the surface gives me hope, allows us to have room for some faith, that someday, somehow, sometimes things will pop up and everything is different.

Beloved of God, be willing to go right to what you need and communicate openly about it and work out something that works for all. Let us be about, connecting, sharing freely, giving to relationships of mutuality and interdependence. We have the power, in every moment to decide whether our actions will transform toxins into nutrients and contribute to healing or not. What if we learned from the world of being, full of unseen energies that animate everything? Maybe we could all be a bit more like mushrooms? May it be so Amen.

Photo Credit: Rev. Jackie Hibbard

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